After more than 40 rounds of blind taste tests, Eddie Kowalski and his team of innovators had finally found the right tomato. The process was tedious, tasting six types of tomatoes at a time and then picking a winner from each round. But they did it to make sure their ingredients would give them the exact flavors they wanted. Straight from Italy, this tomato would soon be the star that tops the Neapolitan pizzas at Lolita’s Pizza in Poughkeepsie.
Lolita’s came as a surprise. The little sister of Lola’s Café had a soft opening in June, in the Washington Street space recently vacated by Kowalski’s fine dining restaurant Crave. Customers had no warning of Crave’s sudden closure in March, but were left with a promise on Crave’s website from Kowalski: “We are just starting a new chapter.”
About a year earlier at Crave, Executive Chef Craig Capano (now executive chef at Lolita’s) decided to use leftover sourdough to make a pizza.
“It was the best pizza I had ever had, and I knew at that moment if I changed the concept and purchased a wood-fired oven, that it would be even better,” Kowalski says.
From left: Executive chef Craig Capano and owner Eddie Kowalski
Even though they both graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, neither one had professional experience making pizza. To learn their new craft, Craig turned to books, YouTube videos, and talking with industry professionals.
Now, with naturally leavened dough that ferments for three days, 100 dough balls are rolled out each day. They range from a traditional red pizza to broccoli pizza with broccoli pesto, ricotta, Parmesan, pistachio, and red onion. Their pasta dishes include lumache topped with spicy pomodoro, Calabrian chile, oregano, and bread crumbs, while their vegetable dishes are light and refreshing like the peas with whipped ricotta, preserved lemon, and pea tendrils. Their mix of imported and local ingredients along with the customized imported Forza Forni oven blend together a taste of Italy with the freshness of the Hudson Valley.
Even though Lolita’s atmosphere is a departure from that of Crave, Kowalski says it’s allowed him to have a space where he can play music like OutKast and Drake while still offering high-quality food.
“It’s nice to feel like you’re in your own skin here.”
Open Tues–Sun, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. 129 Washington St, Poughkeepsie, 845.452.8100
Cavatelli with confit chicken